This hotel review of Tuddenham Mill in Suffolk is taken from our guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith: Hotel Collection – UK/Ireland Volume 2.
We’re late leaving the city. Usually it’s a flat battery or an evasive passport. This time, concerned that we might be heading for the coast, Mrs Smith has a bikini wax. I remind her we’re off to Suffolk, not Copacabana. We hurtle down the M11 with all the Stansted traffic. The delight is that we’re at our destination in 30 minutes, rather than the 30 hours it’ll take the rest of them. From a turn?off just after Newmarket, we wend our way along winding country lanes to the village of Tuddenham. There’s not another car in sight and relying only on moonlight, we wonder if we’ve missed a signpost. Then we spot the Mill’s chimney standing to attention.
There’s been a mill here for close on 1,000 years, but this 18th-century abode is thoroughly modern. About as close to Manhattan as you’ll get in Suffolk, it’s akin to a downtown NY hotel – set in 12 acres of gorgeous Brecks-borders land. The reception, with its generous glass double doors, welcomes you into a large lobby with cool greys and flagstone floors. Catching our eyes in the corner is a blazing fire; the ambience is relaxed and inviting and we are entirely ready to collapse onto the clean-lined furniture. This is a proper, manly building. Nothing fluffy in sight (although we have yet to see the emperor-sized beds).
The current property, created by Collins Millwrights of Melton, dates from 1775 and its brickwork possesses the warmth of Cotswold stone with hues of soft pink running through. Aged oak beams float stylishly above minimalist interiors on every floor. Outside, we spy a lone swan gracing the millpond. A member of staff informs us that he lost a wing in a scrap with a fox (although this hasn’t prevented him hooking up with his own Mrs Swan). When we catch sight of him later, the rosy light that tints the encircling trees has also transformed him, so he appears like a ghostly ballerina.
We’re sleeping in the upper eaves of the mill, and it turns out to be a huge, double-height, beamed barn of a bedroom, resplendent in sleek, Italian-designed minimalism. The iron brace holding up the ceiling is also perfect for those inclined towards pull-ups, dispensing with any need for a gym. Mind you, it’s clearly all about relaxation here and a complimentary bottle of Fleurie helps us settle onto the six-foot bed. We can’t help but wonder what the mill-workers that used to toil their lives away here would make of our lazy-lubber weekend.
Knowing that this hotel revolves around its restaurant, and wizard Scots chef Gordon McNeill, we’re thrilled it’s time for dinner. Besides, it’s a car journey to the nearest eatery, and after seeing that most of the other diners aren’t even guests, we’re keen to find out what the fuss is about. Centre stage, behind the bar, is the original waterwheel; it becomes a real showpiece by night when its full glory is illuminated by pulsating up-lights. Even patrons who take a table upstairs can peer down, through a glass floor-panel, at the mighty and beautiful machinery – lovingly restored, yet still resolutely functional.
The kitchen team doesn't disappoint, delivering inventive, courageous, witty and hearty fare – not suited to the squeamish, though: Gordon’s signature dish, ‘A Taste of the Highlands’, features haggis spring roll and shin of beef stovi. It far surpasses the modest ‘Taste’ of its title. Opposite me, a seafood salad is being devoured – Cromer crab, crayfish tails, king scallops, peeled prawns – a reminder that we’re not far from fleets of fishing vessels. The wine list is not only excellent, but also reasonably priced, with carefully chosen producers showing off their gems. Even the glassware is fabulous; bulbous bowls that fill your palm, perfect for each slug of shiraz. Clearly, Tuddenham Mill is a place that’s perfectly suited to foodies who like proper portions and are happy to hole themselves up in this culinary fantasyland.
The following morning, we discover another feather in Tuddenham’s cap is that there’s no chance of bed-head. Why? Goosedown duvet and pillows mean we arise crinkle-free and refreshed. Greeted by duck?quacks, we peek out after our 10-hour slumbers. A huge egg-shaped bath (hatched in South Africa) sits next to the bed, with views over the pond. The Starck-fitted ensuite couldn’t be more designer-savvy, stocked with Jo Malone pampering materials and Missoni dressing gowns.
Just when you thought we’d been spoiled enough, we discover that breakfast is the biggest treat. Mrs Smith and I think it the best we’ve ever had. The ‘Kickstart’ smoothie has more oomph than a Suzuki GSXR. Just as well, since I was going to need every morsel of energy it provided to get me through the enormously portioned ‘Full Mill’.
Tuddenham is nestled neatly between two of the country’s most historic towns: Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds. The toss of a coin took us east to the cathedral town of Bury but rather than view its architectural treasures, we headed straight for the world’s smallest pub – the Nutshell. It was full to the rafters, although not with the expected hordes of tartan-togged American tourists jostling for a photo opportunity, but three local patrons. Despite the dimensions of this shoebox-sized inn we get seating sufficient to enjoy a swift half of ale and an eavesdrop – gleaning tips on how to sleep surreptitiously on a factory production line.
Back at the mill, Sunday lunch trippers are flowing in to relax in the swish interiors and revel in the delights from north of the border. It’s a venue that smacks of ‘special occasion’, a step above your gastropub or country-house hotel. The staff are young, friendly, professional and yet suitably unfussy. Everyone, from the owners down, seems genuinely happy working here, creating a jovial vibe that seeps into every corner. As for guests going home contented, that’s a given – particularly as you can parcel up some of that Tuddenham magic, to go. Keep the culinary dream alive and buy Gordon’s jams, chutneys, relishes in the lobby. Then, to go with the lime-basil-and-mandarin-scented toiletries squirreled away in your suitcase, give your ablutions back home a designer boost: pop a stripy Missoni robe on your room-service bill. This is a hotel that exemplifies those golden hospitality ingredients – quality and attention to detail. So, when it comes to giving satisfaction to sophisticated sensibilities, a run-of-the-mill chic countryside retreat, this is not.
Anonymously reviewed by Liam Fisher-Jones (Bard's bastion)
Reviews of Tuddenham Mill from Smith members
Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…
Modern but still traditional, the mill is beautiful and our room was stylish and very relaxing. Service from everyone was exceptional.
Perhaps a few more suggestions of things to do, places to see, would be good, but this is only a very small grumble
Nick, BlackSmith stayed on 25 Oct 2013
The Water Meadow Room we stayed in had a lovely view over the meadow and you could either open just the door or the whole glass panel. The room is spacious and light and even though I wouldn't normally say white walls are my taste it suited the room perfectly. The room has a feeling of calm; it's relaxing and very welcoming. There is also a switch-controlled blackout blind that's full length, which is handy if you want to leave the door open during the night. The bathroom is spacious with both a bath and separate shower area with all the toiletries you could wish for. The bed is very comfortable and the duvets and pillows are lovely. There is also a waterside area outside where the ducks and swans are a pleasure to watch. It is actually a stream but the water doesn't flow that quickly so it gives the impression of being a big pond or small lake area. The food was as I expected and very good. The staff are also very helpful and most pleasant and welcoming.
It would have been nice if there were an openable window in the room – even though the folding glass panels were great, we're used to having a window open at night. However, we did lower the blackout blind to the floor and left the door open (without any wildlife entering our room). Breakfast was a lone kipper on a large plate, looking a bit lost – some sort of garnish or toast, etc, would have made it look more appealing. At the evening meal, a lack of vegetables with the deer made the meal very small and unbalanced. During our three-day stay we would have dined in the restaurant more often if the prices had not been so expensive: Two main courses and two desserts with one bottle of wine was almost £100.
Julie, BlackSmith stayed on 5 Aug 2013
The staff were amazing and were happy to accomodate my partner's dietary needs. Our room was amazing: the little extra touches of everything in the room were free and the Apple TV was a bonus.
I would only say that air conditioning would've been good as the loft was very warm when we arrived.
Matthew, BlackSmith stayed on 2 Aug 2013
Comfort and excellent food and staff.
ian, BlackSmith stayed on 13 May 2013
This hidden romantic gem in Suffolk is the perfect destination for a weekend away from busy London. We stayed in the main building and very much enjoyed our room, which was very stylish and peaceful. The restaurant and the chef deserve a special mention and are worth a trip! You should hurry up and book before the chef moves his talents to London. The breakfast was one of the best we've had in the countryside.
Galina, BlackSmith stayed on 6 Oct 2012
Lovely big and super-comfy beds. Fabulous bathrooms with a great shower. Dog-friendly and loved the treats the hotel left for them.
We wanted to leave the car, go for long walks with the dogs and perhaps visit a few pubs for drinks and food on the way. Nothing to do with the hotel, but in the area there is very little to do without driving as most pubs are closed, and the Mill ends up standing on it's own. The peace and quiet is a positive for us, but it did mean that two nights was enough, and at first we did question whether to cancel the second night. Pleased we didn't as we really did chill out and enjoy the food and wine of the Mill.
Jamie, SilverSmith stayed on 31 Aug 2012
We had a lovely stay at Tuddenham Mill. The Mill Stream room was amazing — huge bathroom with a large freestanding bath and walk-in shower. Everything was top quality and the little touches — like fresh orange juice in the fridge along with brownies and cookies made on-site — made such a difference. We had breakfast on our deck the next morning which was a lovely way to start the day, and had no extra charge. All in all: excellent, and I am sure we will be back. The Mr & Mrs Smith goodie bag on checkout was a nice surprise, containing cookies and jam.
Could just do with some lounge chairs on the deck.
Tracey, BlackSmith stayed on 18 Aug 2012
We had a fantastic time at Tuddenham Mill. The little touches are what make this place so special: fresh orange juice and milk (replaced every day) in the room's fridge, beautiful linen and bedding, amazing toiletries and a proper hairdryer, iron and ironing board in the room. We also got beautiful jam and biscuits to take home. These don't sound like much but they do make a difference. We thought the food was brilliant; breakfast was one of the best we have had. I concur with some previous comments about the dinner portions being small: I would recommend skipping the starters which are minute and going straight to mains and then to share a cheeseboard, which is sublime with hot garibaldi biscuits. Do visit Wyken Vineyards while you are there – about 20 minutes away. This beautiful farm park has a fantastic shop, restaurant and a farmers' market on a Saturday.
Aliya, BlackSmith stayed on 13 Apr 2012
Fantastic getaway just over an hour's drive from London. We stayed over the Easter weekend, and even though the hotel was full you barely notice the other guests. After originally booking a Standard room we decided to upgrade to a Loft. Not because there was anything wrong with the first room (although a little dark), we just felt like indulging. And as the weather was not always great, the Loft was ideal with huge beanbag and L-shape sofa. Tons of light and space. So on the rainy afternoon, being curled up in front of the fire reading books and ordering room service worked a treat. So if available I'd definitely recommend a loft. The food was half the experience; we loved it. Huge variety of creative dishes using local ingredients and inventive cooking methods. Beautiful countryside to go for long walks, with pigs cows and cattle to keep you company. I feel like such a Townie. I travel a lot overseas but rarely within the UK. Great to see we have gems like this so close to the Big Smoke.
Daniel, SilverSmith stayed on 5 Apr 2012
Very attentive staff and the setting was just beautiful. Sadly we were there on a dreary wet weekend but can well imagine in good weather you really get to make the most of the outdoor seating by the stream and the open fields. A lovely little decanter of complimentary sloe gin greeted us in our room so that certainly warmed the cockles. The restaurant food was top notch, great service and whilst not cheap is well worth the treat. Overall would highly recommend this location, a little off the beaten track but the mill offers lots of character and would also be a lovely setting for any special events.
Caroline, SilverSmith stayed on 16 Mar 2012